Friday, May 20, 2011

Rhubarb and Honey Recipes

Rhubarb is about the only thing thriving in our garden right now. Even the peas seem a bit anemic. We have three big rhubarb plants near our shed. Though most instructions for growing rhubarb stress that it prefers full sun, ours gets about four or five hours of direct sun a day (that is, when the sun actually shines in Pittsburgh!) and seems to do just fine. We named our "pure-bred galoot" (an 80-lb hound mix) after one of my favorite desserts: Rhubarb "Ruby" Pie. She would not turn down a slice of rhubarb pie if you offered it to her!

Ms. Rhubarb "Ruby" Pie

Here's a very simple rhubarb pie recipe that you can augment in many ways (swap out some of the rhubarb for strawberries or blueberries, add some cinnamon or a teaspoon of vanilla). It comes complete with instructions for my favorite super easy pie crust, which is all-butter (and truly no fail). I know that hard-core pie bakers swear by crusts that use lard, but this crust does it for me. To make it as easy as possible, rather than make a top and bottom crust, I just roll the dough out in a big circle (like making a rustic tart), put it in a pie pan, add the filling and fold the overlap over to form the top crust.

Rhubarb Honey Pie with No-Fail All-Butter Pie Crust
For the filling:
4 cups chopped rhubarb
1 and 1/3 cups summer (amber) honey
7 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped almonds (or walnuts)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon sugar
dash of cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine the rhubarb, honey, flour and salt in a bowl and mix well to combine. Make crust (see below). Sprinkle chopped nuts on the bottom of the crust. Add filling and dot with butter. Fold overhanging crust over filling as if you were making a rustic tart and being sure to leave the center open for venting. Brush top of crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar (and cinnamon or nutmeg, if using). Place on a cookie sheet to catch drips and bake in center of oven for 10 minutes. Lower heat to 350 degrees and bake for about another 50 minutes. At the 30 minute mark, check and tent with foil if crust is over-browning. Cool at least 15 minutes before slicing.
For the crust:
1 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 tablespoons), cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Place in the freezer while you gather the rest of the ingredients.
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1/3 cup ice water
Briefly (about 5 seconds) pulse the flour, salt and very cold butter in a food processor until the butter is pea-sized. Sprinkle water on top and briefly pulse again to evenly distribute it. The dough will be in loose pellets. Pour onto a lightly floured surface and knead it three or four times to bring it together. Form into a flat disk. Roll out to about 16 or 17 inches (1/4th inch thick). Fit into a 9-inch pie plate, letting dough hang over the edge (this overhang will be folded over the filling to form the top crust).

Rhubarb & Honey Ice Cream Topping
You can make a delightful ice cream topping simply by cooking a couple cups of chopped rhubarb with a pinch of salt in a little bit of water to keep it from scorching. When the rhubarb releases its juices and begins to bubble, slip in a cinnamon stick and about 1/4 cup of honey--or more to taste. Remove from heat and add about 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Let cool a little bit and the spoon over vanilla ice cream.

Up for something savory with your rhubarb bounty? Check out this lentil dish, which is great with rice--and also on its own. The inspiration came from a recipe in the June 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times. I've embellished it a bit, with honey, of course!

Lentils with Rhubarb, Spinach & Honey
Olive oil for the pan
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup raisins (or currants)
1 1/2 cups brown lentils, rinsed, picked over for stones, and drained
4 cups broth (I used chicken, but you could use vegetarian)
1/2 lb rhubarb cut in 1/2 inch slices (about 2 cups)
6 cups spinach, rinsed and cut in strips
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup honey
salt and pepper to taste
Heat a sauce pan and coat bottom with olive oil. When oil is hot, add onion, a pinch of salt and saute for a few minutes. Add mustard and cumin, stirring in and continuing to sauce until onion begins to brown just slightly. Add ginger, garlic and raisins. Stir and heat for a few minutes. Add lentils and 3 1/2 cups of broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 25 minutes. Stir in rhubarb and 1/2 cup more of broth and cook for about five minutes. Stir in spinach and cook for about five minutes more. Taste for salt and pepper and also to see how much honey you want to use. You can either stir the honey in or serve it in bowls and drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of honey on top of each. Makes about 8 1-cup servings.

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